Old Leigh boatyard hopes to build large dry dock

The last operational boatyard in Leigh wants to install a huge dry dock in order to safely carry out maintenance on large vessels.

The father and son-run Mike’s Boatyard on Theobalds Wharf, Old Leigh, has asked for planning permission to install a 34ft long, 10 metre wide “Bison Barge” dry dock.

The marine engineering company currently works on out of water vessels by using a 17 tonne crane to lift them out of the water onto blocks.

Using the barge will allow the business to work on larger boats like cockle boats, which currently have to go Wallasea Island and elsewhere in the estuary for maintenance.

The application said: “This is a challenging process as it requires a number of workers and time to operate the crane safely.

“The implementation of the dry dock will enable greater efficiency when a vessel requires out-of-water works to be carried out, ultimately reducing the workload of the crane and allowing for overall increased safety.”

It adds: “The operation of the barge “Bison” as a dry dock allows for the continued maintenance of the Leigh fishing fleet and the continued use of Leigh old town in the marine industry.”

The expansion of the business will allow the company to create three to four new jobs.

Managing director Colin Sedgewick said: “It will make a big difference and will bring more employment to the area and the Old Town.

“Instead of work going out to other boatyards it can remain in Leigh.

“We are the last boatyard in Leigh. We’re a family business and do a lot of work on jetties and boats in London.

“This will allow us to work on bigger boats here.”

Old Leigh is part of a conservation area but the site is not subject to any listed status.

The site is a former timber wharf and was regularly visited by barges and small coasters when operational.

The application adds: “The dry dock “Bison” is considered to be in keeping with the general aesthetics of the Leigh Old Town.

“The old town is known historically for its ship building and fishing fleets.

“The estuary frontage along this area has numerous slipways, wharfs and decks all of which are tools of past marine industry. The Dry dock “Bison” is an addition to Mikes Boatyard to enhance the facilities and ensure the marine industry remains in the Leigh Old Town.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter